It’s been 24 years since a Democrat won a Texas statewide race and Rep. Beto O’Rourke is looking to change that in November in his Senate race against Sen. Ted Cruz, who’s seeking re-election.
O’Rourke’s rising popularity has not gone unnoticed by political pundits and Republicans, with the latter ramping up support for Cruz in a race that should have been a shoe-in for the one-term senator.
President Donald Trump, who has had a contentious relationship with Cruz (he famously called him “Lyin’ Ted”) is scheduled to speak for him at a campaign rally in October to help raise support for the Texas Republican, who has only a three-point lead in the race against O’Rourke.
A recent CNN rating poll shifted the outcome of the race from “Likely Republican” to “Lean Republican,” increasing Republican’s worry that Cruz could lose in November.
The GOP has also increased ad spending within the state to galvanize voters to Cruz, which may make other Senate races around the country more competitive, since less money will be used for other Republican candidates, according to CNN.
“It’s possible — people say no, it’s not possible because again you look at Texas and say ‘It’s a red state and it’s never going to happen’ but Beto O’Rourke has consistently out-fundraised him 2-to-1, and he doesn’t take PAC money,” Ted Cruz’s former campaign manager, Rick Tyler, told MSNBC.
Political Action Committees, or PAC as it’s commonly referred to, are a way for influential businesses to donate money to politicians and in return have laws put in place that would benefit them.
O’Rourke has not accepted money from any PAC’s since launching his campaign and spoke about not doing so in March on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.
“They’re also buying outcomes, actual legislative language that appears in the bills, and in the bills that become laws,” O’Rourke told Bill Maher. “When you wonder why Congress is so dysfunctional, why it doesn’t represent the interests of the people it purports to serve, it’s because it’s so tied to the sources of money that are coming in.”
O’Rourke, who represents Texas’s 16th congressional district in El Paso, is usually greeted by large crowds, as he campaigns across The Lone Star state, and his message has seemingly struck a cord in younger voters.
“It’s young people who are leading the charge right now in Texas, here in this community, and across the country,” O’Rourke told hundreds of students at Texas State University on Sunday, according to the Texas Tribune. “If I hope to serve and represent you, I’ve got to first show up and be here.”
O’Rourke’s message and the possibility of having a Democrat represent Texas in the Senate has resonated with people and has encouraged some Texans to canvass for the El Paso politician.
“I was initially intrigued by his campaign strategy. Hearing someone say they aren’t going to take any money from PACs caught my attention,” Austin resident Caroline Heywood told EBONY. “It’s refreshing to see a candidate really put the people of his state first – their interests only.”
Heywood, who’s never campaigned for a candidate before, said that she believes that O’Rourke can defeat Cruz in November.
Many Democrats are facing competitive races to keep their seat. However, if they manage to hold Republicans off and gain two seats, then they would be able to retake the Senate. Analysts have said if O’Rourke pulls off an upset against Cruz then a Democratic Senate majority is likely.
When Trump tweeted on Aug. 31 that he will endorse Cruz for re-election and O’Rourke told reporters that it was a sign that his campaign is closing the gap in the race.
“I take this as an indication that we are in contention in this race,” he said. “Without PACs, corporations, special interests, we the people of Texas are making something extraordinary happen, and we will do it against the odds, even with having the President of the United States come here to campaign against us.”
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Teddy is a multimedia journalist who serves as the culture and political writer for EBONY. His work has appeared in NBC's Owned and Operated stations, as well as DNAInfo, which covered local neighborhood news in New York City. He received his Masters in Journalism from the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at CUNY in 2017.